A Turning Point in the Iran File: Implementation Day

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January 17, 2016
Laura Rockwood

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano briefs international press and media during the November 2013 Board of Governors meeting. IAEA Headquarters, Vienna, Austria. 28 November 2013. (Photo Credit: Dean Calma / IAEA)

Late Saturday evening, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano issued a report to the UN Security Council and the IAEA’s Board of Governors that, with immediate effect, results in the termination of sanctions under all previous resolutions adopted by the Security Council on Iran’s nuclear program.

Under the July 14 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), “Implementation Day” is set to take place when the following conditions are met:

  • The IAEA, through the Secretary General’s report, will verify implementation by Iran of the nuclear-related measures described in the “Implementation Plan” set out in paragraphs 15.1-15.11 of Annex V of the JCPOA (such as disabling the Arak Heavy Water Research Reactor and shipping out of Iran excess enriched uranium, resuming implementation of its Additional Protocol and of the modified Code 3.1 on design information);
  • The EU and the United States will lift/or terminate their respective nuclear-related sanctions; and
  • The Security Council will terminate all of the resolutions previously adopted by the Council in connection with Iran’s nuclear program.

With the submission to the Council of the Director General’s report, and the announcement of the EU and the US that the necessary conditions for triggering Implementation Day had been satisfied, the nuclear related sanctions were lifted. UNSCR 2231, however, contains a number of restrictions on Iranian activities that will continue, including an embargo of missile and arms sales.

As of Implementation Day, while states will no longer be prohibited from selling to Iran nuclear and nuclear-related items, materials, equipment, goods, and technology as identified in the Nuclear Suppliers Guidelines, such sales will be limited to those needed to support Iranian nuclear activities permitted under the JCPoA; all other sales will be subject to approval by the Security Council on a case-by-case basis, with the expectation that most such sales will likely be opposed by one or more of the Council’s permanent members.

Under the JCPOA, all of the sanctions previously imposed by the Security Council, including those prohibiting the sale or supply of such commodities, can “snap back” in the event that there is significant non-performance by Iran of its commitments under the JCPOA.

This follows the issuance of another report by the Director General in December 2015 containing a “final assessment on past and present outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear programme.”

(Read CNS analysis of the December 2 report.)

In his carefully worded yet unusually blunt report, the Director General touched on each of the twelve areas identified in the Annex to a November 2011 IAEA report as giving rise to concerns about possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program, and provided an overall assessment from the analysis of all information available to it in relation to each of these areas.

The Director General’s report in December reflected what most people had expected: that Iran would not provide sufficient information or clarification to the IAEA for it to be able to resolve all of the outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

That there has been no satisfactory resolution of all past and present outstanding issues about the possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program is an unhappy outcome for many close observers of this subject. However, the resolution of all outstanding issues does not figure among the formal conditions for continued implementation of the Iran deal or for sanctions relief.

At the same time, these assessments should not be understood as “closing the file” or providing Iran with a “clean bill of health.”

Nor should the assessments contained in the Director General’s report be confused with the drawing of safeguards conclusions, and in particular with the drawing of a “broader conclusion” that all nuclear material remains in peaceful nuclear activities. The drawing of such a conclusion, in the best of circumstances, involves a process that takes years, not weeks or months, as was the case in the 1990s when South Africa, in the transition from apartheid, abandoned its nuclear weapons pursuit. .

The IAEA will continue to implement safeguards in Iran and, one expects, to pursue any indications that give rise to concerns about Iran’s compliance with its obligations even if – indeed, especially if – they relate to possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program.

Speak with CNS Experts

To speak with a CNS expert on the issue, contact:

  • Laura Rockwood, Esq., VCDNP Executive Director and former chief counsel at the International Atomic Energy Agency focusing on the negotiation, interpretation, and implementation of IAEA safeguards.  lrockwood@miis.edu
  • William Potter, CNS Founding Director, with particular expertise on the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Middle East WMD-Free Zone, and the politics of the Non-Aligned Movement. wpotter@miis.edu
  • Jeffrey Lewis, East Asia Nonproliferation Program Director, frequent commentator on Iran, open source analysis, and other nonproliferation issues for foreignpolicy.com. jlewis@miis.edu; @ArmsControlWonk
  • Leonard Spector, CNS Washington Office Executive Director and former senior National Nuclear Security Administration official, has analyzed measures to address Iran’s past and possible future illicit nuclear and missile procurement activities. lspector@miis.edu
  • Avner Cohen, Senior Fellow and Professor of Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, author of Israel and the Bomband The Worst Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain with the Bomb, is an expert on the Israeli nuclear program and nonproliferation issues in the Middle East. acohen@miis.edu; @avnercohen123
  • Chen Kane, Acting Director of the Middle East Nonproliferation Program, is the former director of external relations for the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission and recent author of the CNS Occasional Paper, “Planning Ahead: A Blueprint to Negotiate and Implement a Weapon-of-Mass-Destruction-Free Zone in the Middle East.” ckane@miis.edu; @ACRSME
  • Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress, Scientist-in-Residence, can offer a detailed breakdown of the physics behind the deal and the verification mechanisms it includes. He is the primary content provider for the website iranfactfile.org. jdalnokiveress@miis.edu; @ferencdv

CNS-NTI Media Resources

Implementation Day will occur upon the IAEA-verified implementation by Iran of the nuclear-related measures described in paragraph 15 below, and, simultaneously, the E3/EU+3 taking the actions described in paragraphs 16 and 17 below, and with the actions described in paragraph 18 below taking place at the UN level in accordance with the UN Security Council resolution.

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